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Pakistan police officials on Saturday stormed Imran Khan’s residence in Lahore after “bulldozing the main gate” and took several of his supporters into custody as the former prime minister was appearing in court in capital Islamabad, according to reports.
Mr Khan said in a tweet that his wife was at the property. He was appearing in court after expressing fear of arrest.
Videos shared by several media organisations and journalists showed police chasing people inside his residence. This comes days after riot police fired tear gas to disperse his supporters during clashes in Lahore as officers tried to arrest the ousted premier for failing to appear in court on graft charges.
Journalist Ihtisham Ul Haq tweeted: “Police started beating Khan’s workers and personal house staff at his residency at Zaman Park.”
News outlet NDTV reported that the police “bulldozed the main gate” and asked Mr Khan’s party workers to disperse. They also took a “number of PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) workers into custody”.
— NDTV (@ndtv) March 18, 2023
Senior police officer Suhail Sukhera, who was leading the operation in the upscale Lahore neighborhood, said police moved to remove encroachments and a blockade erected by Mr Khan’s supporters.
He said baton-wielding supporters attempted to resist police by throwing stones and petrol bombs, but officers moved on until a man on the roof of Mr Khan’s residence opened fire. No one was hurt.Mr Sukhera said police broke open the main door of Mr Khan’s residence and found masks, petrol-filled bottles, iron rods and batons used in attacks on police during the week. He said inside the sprawling residence, illegal structures were erected to shelter those who have been involved in attacks on police that have injured dozens of officers.
Witnesses said police attempted to disperse Mr Khan’s supporters by firing tear gas and chased them to several homes in the Zaman Park neighborhood.
Mr Khan had been holed up at his home in Lahore since Tuesday. Imran Khan, during his road trip to Islamabad, said in a video message that the government had planned his arrest despite his travel to a hearing. The 70-year-old has also claimed that his removal from power was part of a conspiracy by his successor, prime minister Shahbaz Sharif, and the United States. Both Washington and Mr Sharif’s government have denied the allegations.
Earlier, Mr Khan told Reuters that he formed a committee to lead his party if he is arrested.
The former cricket legend led country-wide protests after his ouster from power last year and has had a spate of cases registered against him. The police unsuccessfully tried to arrest him last week, leading to intense clashes with his party workers.
Police started beating Khan’s workers and personal house staff at his residency at Zaman Park. pic.twitter.com/agavR9tamr
— Ihtisham Ul Haq (@iihtishamm) March 18, 2023
“I have made a committee which will obviously take decisions once - if - I’m inside” jail, he said, adding that there were 94 cases against him.
— Siasat.pk (@siasatpk) March 18, 2023
Mr Khan was addressing charges in the court of unlawfully selling state gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries while in office.
The court previously issued arrest warrants for him in the case as he had failed to appear on previous hearings despite summons.
Mr Khan, who was shot and wounded while campaigning in November, said the threat to his life is greater than before and asserted – without providing evidence – that his political opponents and the military want to block him from standing in elections later this year.
The military and government did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
(Additional reporting by agencies)